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Posts Tagged ‘botanical garden of Brussels’

We won’t see them for a few months in Northern Virginia, but I got a sneak preview of daffodils in bloom here in Brussels, Belgium near a small pond at the botanical gardens yesterday morning.

daffodil

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Finding wildlife to photograph in early January in Brussels, Belgium is pretty tough. There are very few hours of daylight at this time of the year and the skies are mostly covered with gray clouds during the day (when it is not actually raining). During a quick trip to the botanical gardens in Brussels this morning, I spotted a few birds and was able to capture shots of a Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) and a male Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos).

The moorhen was swimming and my camera took the shot at 1/13 of a second, which means that the focus is not super sharp, but I like the soft, impressionist feel of the image. The mallard was more or less stationary as he groomed himself at the edge of the pond, but seemed to be keeping an eye on me.

I am here in Brussels for a brief business trip and as is usually the case on such trips, I like to try to fit in a little wildlife photography, even in the center of a city.

Common Moorhen

mallard

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am back now in the USA, but thought I’d post one last image from my recent trip to Brussels. I spotted this young Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) swimming around in the small pond at the botanical garden. There were several other moorhens, but they all stayed in the reeds and I was not able to get a good shot of them. I really like the spiky feathers of young moorhens. When they become adults, their feathers appear to be much smoother in appearance.

Common Moorhen

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Later today I will board an airplane and fly across the Atlantic Ocean with the assistance of a significant amount of sophisticated machinery. I can’t help but marvel at the way that dragonflies and damselflies, by contrast, maneuver through the air so skillfully and effortlessly. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to fly like that?

This past weekend I spent a good amount of time in one of my favorite photographic pursuits—trying to capture images of a dragonfly in flight. When I am traveling I usually don’t have my best camera gear with me and opt instead to use a Canon SX50, a superzoom point-and-shoot camera. It gives me a lot of reach, but is sometimes slow to focus and has a low frame rate. What that means is that I have to be even more careful than usual, because I can’t capture a lot of shots in an extended burst.

Mostly I was trying to photograph Migrant Hawker dragonflies (Aeshna mixta) at the botanical garden in Brussels. The good news is that Migrant Hawkers are relatively large in size and will sometimes hover a bit over the water. That increases slightly my chances of getting a shot, though many of my attempts resulted in cut-off or out-of-focus shots of the dragonflies.

This was probably my best shot of the session. I like the way that I captured a pretty clear view of the body, including the legs that are tucked in during the flight and managed to get the eyes in relatively sharp focus. One of my Facebook friends commented that it would make a handsome piece of jewelry made with gold, turquoise and onyx—I totally agree with her.

Migrant Hawker

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I can’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of these two insects as they perched on the same stalk of vegetation this past weekend at the botanical garden in Brussels, Belgium. Their postures suggest to me a heightened sense of alertness and a kind of wariness. The much smaller damselfly at the top seems to be cautiously looking down over its shoulder at the Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta), who appears to be focusing his attention upward. Was it a sign of curiosity or one of hunger? There was never any sign of direct aggression, but I note that the damselfly was the first one to take off and the dragonfly did not pursue it.

For those of you who are not as hooked on dragonflies as I am, this image shows pretty clearly some of the differences in the body shape and eye positions of a damselfly versus a dragonfly. It is important, though, to keep in mind the amazing diversity within the community of dragonflies and damselflies in terms of color, size, and behavior—these are some of the reasons why I am drawn to them as subjects for my photography.

friend or foe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Its colors are not quite as ostentatious as those of the Migrant Hawker dragonfly that I featured yesterday, but the bright red bodies of what I believe are Common Darter dragonflies (Sympetrum striolatum) made them equally hard to miss at the botanical garden in Brussels, Belgium. The colors of these beautiful little dragonflies remind me of those of the Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum), a species that I see quite often in my home area of Northern Virginia and the shared Latin genus name of Sympetrum indicates their relationship.

I was able to photograph male Common Darters perched in several different spots and I particularly like the way that the fiery red of their bodies contrasts with the cooler green of the backgrounds.

Common Darter

Common Darter

Common Darter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Last year when visiting Brussels, Belgium in early September, I was excited to discover dragonflies at the botanical garden in the center of the city. I headed back to the same location on Sunday right after checking into my hotel to see if I could find some dragonflies there this year.

As soon as I arrived at the small pond at the botanical garden, I was thrilled to see a number of large, colorful dragonflies flying about. Although they spent most of their time flying patrols over the water, occasionally one of the dragonflies would perch on the vegetation at water’s edge, which allowed me to capture some images of them.

I absolutely love the beautiful colors and patterns of these dragonflies, which I believe are Migrant Hawker dragonflies (Aeshna mixta). I am definitely not an expert on European dragonflies, however, and there are a number of other hawker species that are somewhat similar in appearance. In North America, there are dragonflies of this same Aeshna genus, which are usually referred to as mosaic darners, but I don’t think that this particular species can be found on the other side of the Atlantic.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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At several locations during this visit to Brussels, I have spotted large blue-and-green dragonflies flying patrols back and forth over the water. They reminded me a lot of the Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) that I see fairly often in my home area of Northern Virginia. I suspected correctly that Common Green Darners are a North American species and that the dragonflies that I was observing were European “cousins.”

It was not hard to establish that these are Emperor dragonflies (Anax imperator), a species that is also referred to as “Blue Emperor.” Because of their size and the fact that their territory seemed to be pretty small, it was easy to track the Blue Emperor dragonflies visually when they were flying. I had to wait a long time, however, for them to perch and then move quickly to get a shot when they did so. Their rest breaks frequently lasted only a few seconds and then they would begin to fly again.

I really like the blue and green color combination and the way that these colors coexist in both the bodies and in the eyes of these beautiful dragonflies.

Emperor dragonfly

Emperor dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), like this one that I observed at the Botanical Garden here in Brussels, look and act a lot like the familiar Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) of North America, but are a little smaller and slightly different colored. Shortly after it caught this big fish, the heron let it go or it somehow managed to escape—maybe they have a catch-and-release policy at this location.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) have a look that is so unusual and distinctive that I can now recognize them almost instantaneously. I am fortunate to have the chance to travel to Brussels, Belgium a couple of times a year for work and one of my favorite places to visit here is the botanical gardens of Brussels. There is a small pond at the botanical gardens that always has an assortment of birds, and I was delighted to spot this beautiful Egyptian Goose swimming in the pond yesterday, my day of arrival in this historic city. I have seen an Egyptian Goose at this location a couple of times in the past, but the lack of surprise did not diminish at all my excitement at seeing this exotic species.

As their name suggests, Egyptian Geese are native to the Nile River area and sub-Saharan Africa, but there are now established breeding populations in parts of Europe and even in the United States. According to information in Wikipedia, Egyptian geese were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, and appeared in much of their artwork. They have been raised for food and extensively bred in parts of Africa since they were domesticated by the ancient Egyptians, although I suspect that they are viewed in Europe as primarily an ornamental bird.

Egyptian Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On the day of my arrival in Brussels, Belgium for a short business trip, I went for a short walk in the botanical garden, one of my favorite spots to visit in this city. It is within walking distance of my hotel and is one of the few places where I know I can find a taste of nature in the crowed inner city area of Brussels.

Initially I noted only a few mallard ducks and moorhens in the small pond at the botanical garden, but when I looked more closely, I spotted a couple of spectacularly-colored ducks sleeping in a remote corner. I wasn’t sure what they were, but that did not deter me from taking some photos of them. When I went searching on the internet for the species of ducks in Brussels, none of them seemed to match the ones that I had seen. So I switched to searching using more descriptive terms and discovered that the birds were not ducks, but were in fact geese—Egyptian Geese.

As their name suggests, Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) are native to the Nile River area and sub-Saharan Africa. There are now established breeding populations in parts of Europe and even in the United States.

I took this photo with my Canon SX50, a superzoom point-and-shoot camera that I usually take with me when I travel. As you can see from this image, the camera is capable of capturing a pretty good amount of detail and color.

Egyptian Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted this odd-looking bird yesterday at the Botanical Garden in Brussels, I couldn’t make my mind up if it was a duck or a goose. It seemed too big to be a duck, but its markings seemed too colorful for a goose.

After a lot of searching on the internet, I have concluded this is probably an Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca). As its name suggests, this species is native to Africa south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley and is an introduced species in Europe, according to Wikipedia. There are in excess of 250 breeding pairs in Belgium, primarily around Brussels and the Flanders area, according to a posting on birdforum.net.

This bird did not hang around for very long, so I did not have a chance to see if, as The Bangles famously sang, it walked like an Egyptian (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv6tuzHUuuk).

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The most colorful dragonfly that I have spotted in Brussels during this trip has been a spectacular male Migrant Hawker dragonfly (Aeshna mixta) that was flying patrols over a small pond at the botanical garden.  It spent a lot of time in the air, but occasionally would perch for a short while. Every now it then it would hover over the water, which let me capture the second shot of the dragonfly in flight. My Canon SX50 is a little slow in acquiring focus, so I didn’t think that I would be able to capture any action shots of the dragonfly. However, I kept trying and eventually was able to get a reasonably sharp shot. When I checked out the shooting data for the image, I realized that the shutter speed had dropped to 1/100 second because of the dark water, so it’s almost a miracle that I stopped the action at all—I was shooting in aperture priority mode and was letting the camera choose the shutter speed.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

 © Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I spotted a red dragonfly in flight while exploring the botanical garden in Brussels, I immediately gave chase. Unfortunately the dragonfly chose to perch on a weathered wooden fence a good distance away. Unable to get any closer to the dragonfly, I did my best to incorporate the fence into the composition.

I kept looking later in the day for the elusive red dragonfly, which looks a little like the Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly that I see in my home area, but I never saw it again.

dragonfly in Brussels

dragonfly in Brussels

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Over the last few years it has become traditional for me to be in Brussels over Labor Day weekend in early September for meetings. After I arrived today, I had some free time and captured these images of damselflies in the Botanical Gardens. Some of them are quite similar to those that I see at home, while others appear to be a bit different. As is often the case when I am traveling for work, I left my big camera at home and took these shots with my Canon SX50 HS superzoom camera.

damselfly in Brussels

damselfly in Brussels

mating damselflies in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It doesn’t really matter where I am—if I see a butterfly, I am almost certainly going to chase after it with the hope of capturing an image. That was certainly the case last week in Brussels when I spotted this tiny butterfly and managed to take this shot of it.

As some of you may recall, I am now using a superzoom Canon SX50 when I am travelling. I haven’t used it very often, so I am still learning its capabilities and limitations. I am pretty happy with the way the camera was able to capture some of the small details of this butterfly, including its extended proboscis, and the way that it rendered the out of focus flowers in the background. I am not ready to give up my DSLR, but I will certain consider taking the SX50 with me on those occasions when I just don’t feel like hauling my DSLR and multiple lenses.

butterfly in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The sun was shining so brightly in Brussels one day last week that even the ducks looked to be wearing sunglasses. Although I can clearly see the eye in the white patch of feathers, my mind keeps getting tricked into thinking the eye must be hidden behind the dark lenses of the “sunglasses.”

I spotted these ducks in the same little pond adjacent to the botanical garden of Brussels where I saw the dragonflies that I wrote about in an earlier posting. These ducks sort of look like mallards, but the colors are really different, especially those of the black and white duck. Perhaps these are hybrids or domesticated ducks.

I’d welcome comments and thoughts about the identification of these ducks that were a welcome sight for me as I explored Brussels. I realize that I really miss nature and wildlife when I am in an urban setting.

duck in Brussels

Duck in Brussels

ducks in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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When I am traveling, all of the new species that I encounter seem rare and exotic, even if they are common in the local area. That may well be the case with these Eurasian Common Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) that I encountered in Brussels this week. I love the way the bright colors of the adult’s bill are enhanced by the contrast with its rather drab plumage.

Eurasian Common Moorhen

Eurasian Common Moorhen

When I saw some younger birds pecking about, it didn’t immediately strike me that they might also be moorhens. When I studies my photos, however, I could see the start of the bright coloration on the bills and a similar bill shape, so I think this final photo is of an immature common moorhen.

Eurasian Common Moorhen

I took these photos with my superzoom Canon SX50 at a small pond adjacent to the botanical garden of Brussels, not far from Place Rogier in the center of the city.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

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Today was a beautiful sunny day in Brussels, Belgium and I had some free time to explore the city. I have been in Brussels for short business trips a number of times in recent years and have already visited many of the attractions in the center of the city.  Today I decided to look for some of the kinds of wildlife that I love to photograph, so I made my way to a park that leads to the Botanical Garden of Brussels.

I was encouraged a little when I saw some ducks and turtles in the small pond there and my level of excitement really soared when I spotted some dragonflies flying about. The only problem was that the dragonflies refused to land. When I have my normal DSLR and my favorite lenses, I’ll try to capture in-flight shots, but when I am traveling for work, I tend to leave all that gear at home and use a point-and-shoot camera. My current travel camera is a Canon SX50. It has an amazing zoom lens, but really is not responsive enough to photograph moving dragonflies.

A bit later, I made my way to the opposite side of the tiny pond and discovered the staging area for the dragonflies. Every now and then a dragonfly would perch very briefly on the vegetation. It took quite a few tries, but eventually I got a few shots. I don’t know anything about European dragonfly species, so I can’t really identify the ones that I photographed today. They look pretty similar to ones that I have seen at home and certainly they belong to the same families, but I’d sure welcome assistance in identifying the species.

Today was a day full of unexpected treats. I don’t expect to see bright days full of sunshine during trips to Europe and I didn’t really expect to find dragonflies in Brussel’s urban center.

UPDATE: I have done a bit more research on the internet and it looks to me like the dragonflies in the first two photos below may be Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta).

dragonfly in Brussels

dragonfly in Brussels

butterfly in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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